Over in my former blog home, Steve James writes about why Christmas is an atheistic holiday.
In my view, Christmas is the most atheistic holiday of all. Or at least anti-Christian.
Mind you, I don’t mean that odd little religious holiday of the same name–the one with Baby Jesus and Three Kings and Manger scenes.
I mean the one that tends to be celebrated: The obvious parody of the Chrisatian holiday. Instead of Jesus, we have Santa Claus, who could be described as “What God would be like if he had a sense of proportion.” He brings gifts instead of eternal life and coal instead of eternal hellfire. He has magical powers as ridiculous as those of Jesus, like the ability to climb chimneys and make ruminants fly, which are much more useful than Jesus’ ‘casting out demons into pigs’ kind of thing.
I think it’s not so much atheistic as clearly mythological. Although atheists don’t make any distinctions between deities and children’s stories, theists do. A Christian has no trouble accepting the obvious reality of the Trinity while considering the mythologies of Greece or the Vikings or China or Christmas obviously fictional.
Society doesn’t easily accept minority religions. Those that are developed locally, like Mormonism or Scientology or Baha’iism, are considered dangerous cults, even if they’re not very different from the established religions. Those that have a long history but are ultimately imported are derided as foreign and dangerous, as the treatment of Muslims in the West and Christians in Islamic countries will show.
Now, the Santa story is not meant to be believed. In a modern context, neither is Greek mythology. Presumably, if nobody really believed the Book of Mormon, it could be a similar mythology; for sure, it’d be less lyrical than Greek mythology and less appropriate for children than Christmas, but it could function as, for example, a Wagnerian folk story.